Shore Excursions

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Spinalonga

The most famous island on Crete, this rock stronghold and fortress is located on the north-west entrance of The Bay of Elounda. The fortress was built during Venetian times using building material from an original ancient fortress.

It was founded in 1579 by the Venetian benefactor Luca Michiel, as shown by the nscription on the lintel over the main entrance. It was part of the organization of the defense of Crete, particularly against the expansion of the Turks and the incursions of pirates.

When the Venetians were defeated and surrendered the remainder of Crete to the Turks, Spinalonga alone remained outside of their control. From 1669 until 1715, it was a refuge for Venetians, Hainidons and escapees.

Subsequently until 1903, it was inhabited almost exclusively by Muslims and when these last residents left, the place became a leper colony by order of the Greek government.

This operation was concluded in 1957, and from then on it has remained uninhabited at the mercy of time until recently, when restoration of its buildings has commenced. The public buildings, the houses and the surrounding wall which are being restored, revitalize the history of the island and celebrate the magnificent beauty of the fortress, the island itself and the entire landscape.

 

Vai Palm Beach

The palm beach of Vai (Greek: Βάι) is one of the largest attractions of the Mediterranean island of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe, made up of Cretan Date Palm (Phoenix theophrasti).

For tourism Vai was discovered at the beginning of the 1970s by Richard White and friends from North London, Belfast and Bavaria, at the end of that decade it was popularised by the last Hippies who fled the hot-spots Matala and Preveli. At the beginning of the 1980s Vai was full of backpacker tourists from the whole world, leading to a mixture of chaotic campground and garbage dump. Vai was enclosed and declared as a protected area. The unique forest recovered, the beach became clean.

It is now a big tourist attraction and in August it is difficult to find a spot on the beach or indeed anywhere to park. lf you need the toilets you have to pay a euro or two. Because it is necessary to pay for parking, people park on the road so access can be difficult.

The palm beach, which belongs to the Moni Toplou, is the touristic center of East Crete, with thousands of visitors each year. Vai lies close to Palekastro, Sitia and the Dionysades islands.

 

Knossos Palace

Knossos is 64 km west of Agios Nikolaos.

Knossos is the site of the most important and best known palace of Minoan civilization. According to tradition, it was the seat of the legendary king Minos. The Palace is also connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Icaros. The site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000 - 3000 B.C.) until Roman times.

The Linear B tablets (Mycenaean script) of the 14th century B.C. mention the city as ko-no-so.

 

Dikteon Andron

The Dikteon Cave (or Dikteon Andron or Dictaean Cave) is one of the most important and famous of the 3,000 caves in Crete and the 8,500 in Greece.

It is in the impressive Dikteon Cave, rich in stalagmites and stalactites, that Zeus was born according to legend. This is why the Dikteon Cave was already famous in antiquity, dedicated to the worship of the greatest of the gods, as the many offerings found there indicate.

In our days the Dikteon Cave continues to receive many visitors, no longer worshippers, of course, but travellers from all over the world.

 

Panagia Kera

The most popular Byzantine monument in Crete (13th- 14th A.D.), it is located in Logari, one kilometre east of Kritsa. This triple-nave Byzantine church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, to Saint Anthony and Saint Anna. It is adorned with superb wall paintings on particular themes like the representation of Saint Anna, other icons of the saints, and the fourteen scenes depicting the secret life of the Virgin Mary.

Characteristic of all the wall paintings is their vividness, expressiveness and aesthetic perfection.

 

Ancient Lato

This area owes its name to the goddess Lito (or Lato) who was the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Its ruins have been preserved in very good condition, and date back from the 4th-2nd century B.C. and are evidence of the last habitation there, a settlement that seems to have been abandoned in stages as its inhabitants moved down towards the sea.

Apart from its archaeological and historical interest, Lato is a place with a panoramic view of the whole region. Gazing over the entire area from the hills of Lato, visitors can understand why three thousand years ago the Dorian people chose to settle in this place.

 

Archaeological Site of Gournia

Gournia - the ancient name of which is not known - is the most characteristic of the excavated medium-size settlements, dated to the period of the peak of the Minoan culture (Late Minoan I period: 1550-1450 B.C.). It is called "Pompeii of Minoan Crete" because of the good state of preservation. It occupies a low hill, close to the sea, at the Isthmus of Hierapetra. The first inhabitants settled here in the Early Minoan III period (2300 B.C.). Remains of the Middle Minoan period (2000-1600 B.C.) are also preserved; in c. 1600 B.C., the palace was erected but was destroyed along with the surrounding town in 1450 B.C., at the same time with all the other palatial centres of Crete. Fifty years later the site was partly reoccupied and was finally abandoned in around 1200 B.C.

 

Milatos Cave

Milatos Cave is situated 2,5 km outside the village of Milatos on the steep slope of a gorge and has an area of 2100 sq m.

The number of stalactites and stalagmites in the Milatos Cave is small, but offer a wonderful picture. The amazing arrangement of the pillars divides the cave into numerous caverns.

The chapel of Saint Thomas in the cave commemorates the catastrophe in the year 1823. 3,600 men, women and children sought refuge in the cave but had to surrender after 15 days and were then either killed or mistreated or even sold to Egypt as slaves by the Turkish occupying troops.

 

Richtis Gorge

Richtis Gorge refers to a gorge in Crete, Greece. It is a state protected park near Exo Mouliana, Sitia, that starts at the traditional village Exo Mouliana, which is located on the national road between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia and ends at the secluded Richtis beach, just east of the village Kalavros. The hiking trail is about 4 km in length of easy (spring/summer/autumn) to moderate (winter) difficulty. Rich vegetation (mainly platanus trees, wild berries and local flowers and herbs) and animal life (mainly local species of butterflies, small reptiles, birds and small mammals) can be observed along the way, as well as old stone bridges and water mills before it culminates with the Richtis Waterfall and beach, making Richtis gorge trail one of the most diversified hiking experiences in Crete.

 

Ha Gorge

Ha Gorge is a gorge on the eastern part of the island of Crete in Greece. It is located in the west slope of Thrypti mountain and exits east of Vasiliki village in the plain of Ierapetra. The gorge is about 1.5km long, particularly narrow at several points and has walls rising up to 300m. Its name derives from the verb hasko meaning to open or part widely, to gape. Ha is considered to be one of the wildest gorges in Crete and one of the most difficult to cross. Being practically inaccessible to people, the Ha gorge maintains a rich and diverse avifauna.